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Friday, 4 November 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - Although I sit upon the Opposition benches, I do not think that I can be charged with entertaining any personal hostility towards the members of the Government, or with having unduly harassed them. I recognise that the business of the country must be carried on, whether it be by a Government having a large or a narrow majority. It very often happens that the business is more efficiently transacted by . a Government with a narrow majority than by one having an overwhelming number of supporters. A Government which is confronted by a weak Opposition very often fails to accomplish its purpose. For these reasons, I am not favorable to anything in the way of opposition which will involve a mere waste of time. The Government appear to think that this debate is a pure waste of time; but it may accomplish some good by directing attention to the unsatisfactory manner in which the busi ness of the country is being carried on by reason of the absence of a large number of honorable members, who, whilst professing to serve the country, are more concerned in looking after their own private interests. I do not agree with the honorable member for Perth, who says that our work is carried on more, effectively, when there is a small attendance of honorable members, than when there is a large one. It is true that a few honorable members sit here for long hours at great personal inconvenience, in order to facilitate the business, and that time is wasted principally by those honorable members who attend only occasionally, and make long speeches to let their constituents know that they are here.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member himself makes the longest speeches.

Mr BROWN - I do not speak very often - not so often as does the right honorable gentleman, whose speeches occupy more space in Hansard than mine do. The honorable members referred to make long speeches, and then clear out again. That is the last that is seen of them, so far as the actual work of the House is concerned. The present condition of affairs is not a healthy one, because honorable members who conscientiously attend to their duties are expected to make up for the deficiencies of those honorable members who attend here only when they desire to deliver a speech. Some reform should be effected in this direction. We. do not want more talk or longer speeches, but a more regular attendance, and fuller consideration of the measures -which are being placed upon the Statute-book. The Prime Minister, when he was Premier of New South Wales, was able to arrange for all-night sittings, and, indeed, all-week sittings, in order to push through the work of the country. He had no difficulty in maintaining a quorum, because he had the Labour Party behind him. He must now realize that he is in a very different position, and that if he desires to keep a House he must rely upon supporters who have not been remarkable for the regularity of their attendance. Honorable members should recognise their obligation to attend here, not merely for the purpose of maintaining a quorum, but also in order that the measures which are brought before us shall fairly reflect the wishes of our constituents. The honorable member for Barrier has done good service in raising this question, and pointing to the need of more regular attendance on the part of honorable members.

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